NADI BACHAO/RAKSHA SUTRA AANDOLAN
The Himalayas should not be dispossessed of its forests, rivers, mountains & most importantly its people
We are experiencing changes in our day to day life on part of the nature which is being called as the climate change. We are witnessing the signs of weather and climate change as well as their consequences. We live in the arms of the Himalayas. The ice caps have also decreased as compared to the past. The water in the rivers is also decreasing alarmingly fast. The different fruits and roots found in the forests earlier are also becoming rare and the remaining Burans (Rhododendron) and Fyonli flowers are also blossoming earlier than scheduled and are on the verge of extinction. Due to the widespread forest fires every year the natural habitats of many wild animals, insects, birds etc. are being destroyed and as a result they are entering the periphery of the human colonies and villages.
The seasonal rains which instilled a new life in the people’s life and the harvest of the farmers have also changed their scheduled periods and have become irregular and uncontrolled. As the rains are not on time, so it has posed a serious problem in front of the farmers. The sources of water in the villages have decreased and remained to a mere 10-15% of their actual quantity. The problem of decreasing resources is arising before the people gradually and they are even not having options to face the rising inflation.
The people living in the Himalayas are facing the problem of climate change on one hand and the danger of the hydroelectricity projects on the other hand. Because of these projects the people living on river banks and in the valleys had to face the problem of displacement. 558 dams are proposed on different rivers of the state of Uttarakhand, as a result of which around 2 million people are going to be affected.
Around 5000 villages of this area are coming under the impact of these dams. The speed with which the level of water is decreasing in the rivers just shows that the claims of electricity production are baseless and are being driven by the capitalistic approach. There are many dam projects in the state of Uttarakhand as a result of whose construction the water sources of the villages have dried up. The village women depended on the local forests for fodder; grass, firewood etc. but now these have been acquired by the construction companies and agencies. The lands of the people and their pastures have also been acquired due to which the people have got nothing but disaster in their lives. The affected people are fighting the battle of their survival. So keeping in view all these factors it is concluded that the man-made hydropower projects are just nourishing the factors of climate change, so causing the people to face a double impact.
We have to keep in mind that we should not remove our focus from protesting against the repressive developmental policies. There is a need for pressurizing the authorities against the imposition of the projects and policies which take away the means of living and the rights of the people. The report of the Water-March held from 11-19 September is in front of you in the form of the booklet held by you. The suggestions given by the common people during the meetings, summits, rallies and press meets towards which the attention of the concerned state authorities needs to be attracted have also been included in this booklet.
The Shankaracharya of the Shreemad Jagadguru Puri – Swami Nischalanand has warned the state system against the consequences of rendering the mountains of the Himalayas tree-less, river-less and devoid of people. The views expressed by him in this respect have been primarily presented in this booklet for the readers. We came across around a thousand people by the virtue of this water-march. We acknowledge the arrangements done by the local social workers, institutions and ashrams for the marchers.
Water-March – The effects on the lives and livelihoods of the people of the Himalayas because of the construction of dams and hydropower projects
A water march was organized by the Nadi Bachao Aandolan in Uttarakhand earlier also, followed by a book under the heading Urja Pradesh ki Ujadti Nadiyan aur Ujadte Log which was handed over to the government. In this second water-march from 11-19 September the water-marchers studied the major 9 rivers (Tons, Yamuna, Bhagirathi, Jalkur, Bal Ganga, Bhilangna, Lastar, Mandakini and Alaknanda) Ghati ki Mori, Purola, Naugaon, Badkot, Brahmkhal, Uttarkashi, Tehri, Boodhakedarnath, Ghansali, Ghuttu, Chirbatiya, Agastyamuni, Basukedaar, Gopeshwar, Joshimath, Rudraprayag, Srinagar, Rishikesh and Haridwar etc.
We got a chance to understand the thoughts and views of the regional pradhans, regional panchayat members, institutions, social workers, journalists, farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, masons, businessmen and the employees of the hydropower projects about the constructed, under-construction and proposed dams regarding the status of the water, hydropower projects and employment. The water-marchers tried to understand the problems of the affected people by listening to their complaints, observed the damage caused to them and the extent of frauds happening with these people.
The main points of the daily programme have been – getting the water-jug (Jal Kalash) filled with water from the local river, pasting the brochures and pamphlets relating to the water march at the major places of the locality and publicizing and explaining the same to the people, shouting slogans for the water march in the form of processions, listening to the experiences and views of the participating and the affected people and to give them an opportunity for exchanging the same and holding discussions with the motivators at night.
The symptoms are worth upsetting
It is evident that the climate is changing and the water crisis is deepening. The glaciers are decreasing in their expanse and the ice caps are deteriorating. The snow fed rivers are going down in their water level. It has become difficult to witness the snowfall and the snow filled youth of the mountains in the summers. The water of the rain fed rivers is heading an end and due to the drastic decrease in the bio-diverse forests, the water absorbing and holding capacity of the soil has decreased. Now there is coming up a tendency of soil-erosion and landslides even after very less rainfall, and the total water of the rainfall is leaking away causing uncontrolled floods and rendering the perennial rivers into dried rivers. The forest fires are also devouring the forests as and when it gets the opportunity. Because of all this the lives of the people have come in danger. This temper of the weather and nature is a result of the unplanned development, which is devoted to the welfare of the capitalists and the rich people at the cost of the common people by stripping our mother planet Earth of its resources.
On the other hand, the people under the direct impact of this ‘development’ are living a life full of fear, doubts, and conflict. The land is slipping from blow their feet, the nature has left their side and all the resources and means of their livelihood have been taken away from them. They do not know that what they are supposed to do next. The dream of Urja Pradesh (Power State) has turned into Ujda Pradesh (Ruined State), in which the people are seeing themselves standing at the threshold of death and misery. The valleys full of biodiversity have been devastated. It has become very essential to think in respect of the development of the Urja Pradesh in the context of sustaining the existence of the people in the Himalayas, the shortage of the fertile soil received by the rivers flowing through the plains, and the problem of the increasing of the boundaries of the sea towards the human colonies in the scarcity of the silt which filled the sea shores.
The inauguration of the water march which started from the bank of the Tons River in the frontier block Mori of the state of Uttarakhand was done by famous social worker Shri Bihari Lal Ji. He informed the local people about the optional sources of energy like solar energy, biomass etc. and said that there is no need of large and destructive dam projects at all in the state. The water march has been organized to convey the same to every village. He gave the example of the Non-Cooperation Movement of Gandhiji and said that the villagers should also hold the same purview against the system which is doing injustice to the nature and the human rights. The skill o producing electricity must be learned by the rural unemployed. When the people go against the activities of the dam construction companies, the aimless youth stand with the contractors of the construction companies overlooking their duties towards the society and the nation, which renders these youth with the symptoms of despair and defeat. Mori is still miles away from the impatience of development even after 60 years of the independence of the nation. The dam construction agencies deceptively and illegally lure the local people into the trap of employment, which causes them to lose their land, homes and resources. He gave the example of the people displaces by the Tehri dam, who have not received justice even after losing their homes. The villagers may use the canals and the contributories to the Tons River to produce hydroelectricity, which may then be used by them free of cost. But the companies which come in the villages to dig tunnels for electricity production will not give anything to the rural people and will only light up the homes of the rich people. The people should use their Right to Information (RTI Act) to ask these construction companies whether they will receive free electricity produced by the dams in their area or not? If not then have they come here just to deprive us of our homes and rights, this has also to be decided by the masses. He told the poor rural people that they are already not getting their traditional rights over the forests, so they will also not receive the electricity from their flowing water. He called the people to send proposals to the government for the construction of small hydropower projects at the village and district level. The production of hydroelectricity and employment should be done with the help of the state government. The state government should also strive for helping the people.
The Ex-Block Head of the Mori block Mr. Premlal said that he is strongly against the directing of the Tons River into tunnels but if the administration enlightens him about the rehabilitation policy only then he may think about allowing the construction of small hydropower projects. The water marchers rallied in the Mori market with the water from the Tons River. Folk songs were sung at this occasion and for witnessing the same a large number of people collected. People of the villages of Khooni Gaad, Mora, Butotra, Bainol, Kevla, Jakhol, Chidri, Dondi, Satta, Masri, Shiva etc. were present here. During the meeting organized here Mr. Vipin Chauhan said that the regions of the villages Fafrala, Naitwad, Kalaap etc. are witnessing heavy landslides. The tunnel of the Naitwad-Saankri hydropower project is proposed to be constructed through the same region. So, the areas where the people are already facing the problem of landslides, so the construction of the hydropower projects which will push these villages over the threshold of death is meaningless.
25 dams are proposed by the government on the Tons River, which will affect many villages of the region. On this occasion he told the residents of the Mori village that in the answer of his question in respect of the proposed power projects he was answered that the unemployed youth will get permanent employment by the virtue of these projects, while the people of these areas are dependent on the Yamuna, KamalGanga, Tons rivers for the sustainment of their livelihood by means of agriculture, gardening and animal husbandry. As the villages of Purola, Naugaon and Mori fall in the hilly regions so the proposed projects will not only cause landslides but will also destroy the fertile land, pastures, forests etc. Also the construction of underground tunnels will dry up the natural sources of water. The houses of this area had been constructed according to the old and traditional architectural techniques and thus the construction of underground tunnels may cause land depression and pose serious risk to these houses. After the meeting held in Mori village, a large rally was organized in the Purola market with the folk song Nadi Tu Behti Rehna on the lips of the rally supporters.
On the morning of 12 September, 2009 Shri Jagdeep Rawat of the Samriddhi Sansthan, Naugaon bade farewell to the water marchers. On the way, the workers of the Mahila Utthan Samiti, Brahmkhal expressed their worry for the continuous decrease in the water level of the river Yamuna and asked the water marchers to save Yamuna through their efforts.
The co-workers of the Ganga Bachao Abhiyaan of Uttarkashi organized a large meeting in the District Panchayat Bhawan, in which many organizations and women of the Jalkur and Bhagirathi valley actively participated. The meeting was presided over by district panchayat member Shri Dinesh Nautiyal. He said that the companies give fake temptations and temporary employment to the people at the time of the project construction, but after the project is completed the affected people are ignored and the promises made to them are not fulfilled. He asked the politicians to stop supporting these companies just because they provide temporary employment to the people. The people who are supporting the construction of these dams in the valley should first know that whether the people are actually getting the employment or not, and whether these people would get free electricity or not? So, just to provide people with temporary employment and contracts for a short term the political parties should not support the construction of these projects.
A local Mrs. Sheela Devi says that the practice of converting the rivers into lakes for electricity production and the releasing of water in the canals without any prior notice has instilled fear among the people. Some days back, in a similar incident a buffalo of the Dilsaud village drowned away in the rapid water flow as a result of the sudden release of water from the Maneri-Bhali II Stage. Due to such happenings the local people fear to even come near the rivers.
Also, due to the decrease in the water level of the river Bhagirathi the area has become environmentally imbalanced. The availability of firewood and fodder has become very limited and the dangerous wild animals are entering the periphery of the villages as their habitats have been destroyed by these projects. In the last many years the sudden releasing of water from the Maneri-Bhali Stage I and II has cost dozens of innocent lives.
On the third day of the Water-March, the water-marchers reached New Tehri on 13th of September. A press conference was organized in the Tehri Press Club. On this occasion, in the presence of the reporters and the locales it was felt that electricity is really required by us for the sustainment of our lifestyles as well as for the industrial growth, but there are many options available in place of the large hydropower projects like water mills and canals. By maintaining perpetual flow of water in the irrigation canals the motives of irrigation as well as the electricity production can be easily fulfilled.
On 14th September the water-marchers reached Lok Jeevan Vikas Bharti, Budha Kedar Nath situated in Bal Ganga Ghati. In the night, the water-marchers shared a dialogue with the workers of the institute. The Lok Jeevan Vikas Bharti Institute has constructed a small canal from the water of the Med River and produced 25 kilowatts of electricity from it. After this important experiment of the institute and the constant efforts of Mr. Bijari Lal Ji the people of the Genwali village have installed a small hydropower station. As a result of this, a chain of the construction of such small hydropower stations has come in vogue and become a general practice with the people of the Agunda village situated besides the DharamGanga River constructing a similar hydropower station. And also, the people of the Med village etc. are striving for the same at present. UREDA (Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Authority) is also coming forward for providing support for the construction of such small hydropower stations.
Prominent social worker Mrs. Anita Bharma organized a meeting in Ghansali, which was attended by the village pradhan, members of the village and district panchayat, journalists and the intellectual people of the area. The people present in the meet said that because of the construction of dams in the area, the local people are facing the problem of residential areas. The participating village pradhans of the Purwal, Saruda, Baheda, Semalth, Falenda villages etc. expressed their problem of the shortage of drinking water due to the building of a dam in the Falenda village. They told that the dam construction companies are destroying the basic amenities of the residents of the affected regions. The Panchayat representatives told that the construction materials are brought to the construction site in large vehicles, which damages the roads of the region. Giving an example of the disadvantages to the people caused by these dams, Mr. Prabhakar Uniyal, President of the Village Pradhan Organisation, stated that the regional people have to travel an extra distance of 30 kms. But, after the construction of the Tehri dam for reaching the District Headquarters; which causes wastage of time as well as money.
In the same respect, village prahan of Semalth village Mrs. Madhuri calls for a ban on the construction of the large hydropower projects which adversely affect the natural resources. She seconded the fact that in the name of development the mountains are being subjected to disaster. She raised the question that does the development of the hills depends solely on the construction of dams?
After this meeting the members of the water-march met the people and village pradhans of the villages affected by the ‘Bhilangna Hydropower Project’. A total of 11 villages have been affected by this project, namely Beena, Chandla, Sindwal Gaon, Jogiyada, Devling, Gwad, Mendu-sindwal, Satiyala, Mehar Gaon, Chandoli etc. The construction of tunnels is being done under these villages. 72 year old Mr. Bacchi Ram of Beena village says that his livelihood was dependent solely on farming. The farms he had were irrigated from the natural sources of water, which have now dried up and for his farmlands he has been compensated at the rate of 400 per naali of land. And this is not the case just with Mr. Bacchi Ram, but the same treatment has been received by the other residents of the area who were previously dependent on agriculture as their main source of income. After the natural sources of water of these villages dried up, these villages also started facing the problem of drinking water and other related issues. According to the villagers, a year ago when the house of a fellow villager caught fire, there was no water to extinguish it, so the whole house burnt down to ashes. Prior to the commencement of the projects there was no water shortage, but presently all of the water has dried up due to the construction of tunnels in the area.
The residents of the Beena & Saankri village say that they have numerous problems from the construction of dams in the area. The construction company is dumping the unused cement and pebbles in the irrigation canal which is making the farmable land infertile. The village pradhan of Saankri village Mr. Bhoorvir Singh told us that an ox of the village died recently owing to its electrocution by the electrical wire of the hydropower project. When the local people demonstrated against the company on this kind of carelessness, the company called the police and rolled down boulders from the hill-top on the gathering. Due to the construction of underground tunnels in the area, landslides have become common at several places. Cracks have appeared in the houses of the people. Also, they have not received any employment from the dam project. The women of the area feel insecure about the presence of outside workers working in the project. They fear going alone in the forests and fields. Now the people understand the fact that their destruction depends on these hydropower projects only.
At night, the water-marchers stayed at the Janvikas Sansthan, at Chirbatia which is dedicated to social welfare. Here during a meeting with the volunteers of the institute it was discussed that the medicinal plants are on the verge of extinction from the villages. And even there are no local doctors who may know about the medicinal characteristics of these plants. In this era of global warming, much attention is not being paid on the conservation of these medicinal herbs and roots, as is on their commercialization. The flowers of Burans (Rhododendron) which actually blossomed in the month of February are now blossoming two months earlier. Same is the condition with the flowers of Fyunli. Many species of flowers are endangered and require immediate attention for their survival.
The water-march reached Basukedaar which is affected by the Singoli-Bhatwadi dam being built by L&T Company on the 15th of September. In this region, the local villagers have stopped the work of the project many a times. Among the active protestors of this destructive project Mr. Gajpal Singh Negi and Mrs. Sushila Bhandari said that the officials of the company are using the policy of divide and rule amongst the local people by moving a false revolution in the favour of the building of the dam. They also said that the company has complete backing of the local administration in their favour because of which the public welfare is being ignored completely. Around 32 villages are being affected by the Singoli-Bhatwadi hydropower project. These 32 villages will be above the underground tunnel for this project. In addition to these villages coming over the 12 kilometers long tunnel, the irrigation arrangement of 92 other villages will also be affected completely. In this region, in Ukhimath a disastrous landslide took place in the year 1998, whose memories are still intact in the minds of the people. The government has still not been able to make up for the loss occurred after the earthquake in the region in the year 1999, but still the government looks impatient for the construction of underground tunnels below these shaky hills. The local people are asking the question from the government that does the development mean their displacement from their own homes? Is it right to hand over their rivers to the construction companies when they even don’t have proper drinking water at their disposal? Is it development to supply electricity to the capitalists and large business houses when their villages are still far from electricity? So, the question which arises here is that whose development is going on presently? As the local people are facing sheer destruction and nothing else. The people supporting the project receive large amounts of money from the construction companies and the leftover is then given to those who are actually affected as if in favour; is this development?
The construction company Larsen & Tubro has stated in their proposal documents that the local residents are dependent on goat rearing, fish rearing and wood-cutting for their livelihood, and they are deceiving the people through these false facts only. In actual, the local people are dependent on agriculture for leading their lives. The locales express their fear that the people who have come from outside for the construction of dam may also get the right to vote, which may affect their democratic decision. In this meet, the people from the villages like, Basukedaar, Kausalpur, Aarkhunde, Raidi, Daankot, Daalsi, Paali, Ryaasu, Biron, Kyaark, Barsudi, Naidi, Pavnaar, Falai etc. The village pradhan of the Paali village Mr. Mahipal Singh Bisht along with the panchayat representatives of all the other villages participated in this meeting.
On 16th September, the members of the water-march had a talk with a leader of Chipko Aandolan Mr. Chandi Prasad Bhatt at Gopeshwar. In the regard of the Himalaya policy, he urged the need for such a policy which is proposed by the people living in the Himalayas themselves. If in actual the government drafts a policy for the Himalayas which causes its destruction, then would the policy be called as the Himalaya policy for the welfare of the Himalaya? He said that electricity is the basic need of everybody, but the ‘sale’ of the rivers and the construction of large dams on them which affects the environment, should not be done. He also added that the construction companies are luring the local people in their traps so that they don’t face any opposition. He gave the example of the Chaai village which was affected by the Vishnuprayag hydropower project that 30 years ago he opposed the building of this project and warned the people of its future effects. Now the result of that project construction is in front of everyone, but the state has not learnt anything from the same. He also praised the efforts of the water-march.
In the Municipal Auditorium situated at Gopeshwar a district level meeting was organized in the presence of the water-marchers by Mr. Satyendra Rawat for giving a thought to the “Crisis caused by the construction of dams in Uttarakhand”. In this meeting, the people of the Gangol Gaon, Sagar, Gwad, Devaaldhar, Bairangna, Mandal, Bangdwara, Khalla, Kujju Maikot, Syund, Sitoda villages compared the construction companies coming for the construction of dams with the East India Company. Actually the truth is that the government has 12% stake in these dams, and the rest of the electricity would be used by the companies for their profit and welfare. This is a great irony that the local innocent people would have to leave their homes and they would be the ones who would have to lose their water, forests and lands; but the takers of the profit would just be the private companies and the government.
In the meeting held at Gopeshwar, one thing which came out prominently was that the people of this state who have played a major role in environment protection by starting movements like Chipko, Raksha Sutra, Nadi Bachao and have contributed in the process of lower carbon emission, have got nothing to their gain. The people hold the view that they do so much for the protection of the forests, water and land, but no credit is given to them. On the contrary, when the effects of their works actually start showing, the credit is taken by somebody else. Giving the example of the Chaai village, people said that a tunnel has been constructed from under this village and has been badly affected by earthquakes and landslides. Cracks have appeared in the houses of the residents of this village. Earlier, there used to be good yield of cereals and vegetables here, but now this village has been ruined as a result of the ongoing construction of the Vishnu Prayag Hydropower Project.
After the meeting held at Gopeshwar the Jal Yatra reached Joshimath near Badrinath under the guidance of struggling social worker Laxman Singh Negi. The Chaai village is also situated near Joshimath. In a meeting organised here Shri Mohan Lal Bajwal (Dhaak village) said that he has opposed the construction of the Tapovan-Vishnugaad project. To demonstrate in the same regard when he together with other people jammed the local highway, he including 18 people were arrested and sent to the Chamoli jail. They were later released only after the pressure of the local politicians and representatives. A local Mr. Chandan Lal said that they have seen destruction of a place in front of their eyes and the most obvious example is that of their village Chaai. Due to the dam project construction in the region, a tunnel has been dug out from below this village, which has caused more than half of the land of the village to be destroyed beyond repair. The people had to leave their own homes, to live on rent in Joshimath. Before the landslides caused by the tunnel, the local people were able to sustain themselves on the yield of the village farms, but after this disaster nothing has been left in this village. If the residents demonstrate for their compensation, they are treated badly on part of the administration and are divided among themselves.
On the 17th of September, the Water March reached the Dhari village located in Pauri district, which has been affected by the Srinagar Hydropower Project. The local residents say that the GVK construction company is dividing the people amongst themselves, so that there is no one to oppose them. Also, the company is making false promises to the people and taking them on their side. The company has compensated the people whose lands and houses were in the upper and lower regions of the hill on which this Dhari village is situated, but the people who had their houses and lands in the area between these two regions have not yet received the compensation from the company. A resident of Dhari village, Mr. Ramlal said that when he approached the Sub District Magistrate in this regard, he replied by saying that he is of no stature before the company and so he would not be able to help him. The company has constructed a cemented road in between of this village, in the name of the welfare of the people. But the local people say that this road will get submerged once the reservoir of the dam starts filling up and the company has spent 5,00,000 on this road for just showing off their ‘care’ for the people. For avoiding the submergence of the Dhari Devi temple, the company has planned to lift the ancient structure of this temple above the level of water in the reservoir and has thought of linking it with a bridge so that the pilgrims may have an easy access to the temple.
On 17 September, the participants of the water march were welcomed in Srinagar. Here a press conference was called up by the Hills Research Centre (Garhwal University) and ADAN Institute. On this occasion honorable and prominent environmentalists like Dr. Arvind Darmora, Ranjeet Singh Jakhi, Jagat Singh ‘Junglee’ etc. were present. In an address to the present reporters a warning was given that to take the carbon credit and keeping in view the climate change the state should draft a climate policy. The water marchers said through the press that the government should take rapid steps in the regard of the climate and rehabilitation policy handed over by the various organizations of Uttarakhand.
The march reached the residence of famous economist Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala on 18th of September 2009 situated at Lakshmoli (Bagwaan). In the mutual discussion held there, the local rural women and the female presidents of the Mahila Mangal Dals also participated. The women of the Lakshmoli region, which is affected by Kotli-Bhel dam project, said that the construction of dam has not only affected their livelihoods but have also tempered badly with the climate of the region. They said that the livelihood of the people here depends solely on the practice of agriculture, so when there will be no farming then how will they be able to lead their lives? Women politician and activist Bhawani Rawat said that the company constructing the dam project earlier became successful in gaining the support of the rural men but soon they learnt the truth and quickly reacted by hitting the streets in opposition of the dam construction. Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala gave an example of the American nations where the water from the rivers is pumped out and then that water is used to produce electricity, in this way the perpetual flow of water is not affected and the electricity production is also carried out without causing any problem to the people. He insisted that conservation should be preferred over the construction of barrages.
The same day in the evening the water marchers took part in a press conference organised by Mr. Prem Pancholi at Rishikesh. On the next day on 19th September a press meet was held at Haridwar. The reporters were given detailed information about the various constructed, under-construction and proposed 558 hydropower projects. In addition to this a message was given to the government through the media that it should reconsider the permission for the construction of various dam and hydropower projects. In this respect a phamplet was also distributed at various places.
After the press meet the jalyatris gathered at a daily payer assembly held near Jairam Ashram, Haridwar. There the conclusive meeting of the Jal Yatra was organised in the warmth of the blessings and presence of Shreemad Jagadguru Shankaracharya Pujya Swami Nischalanand Saraswati Ji. This meeting was organised by Dr. Bharat Jhunjhunwala. He introduced the marchers and placed the problem of the Ganges and the various Himalayan Rivers in front of Shree Shankaracharya Ji. After his address, Bihari Lal Ji mentioned the various ill-effects of dam construction on the Panch Prayags (the five places of Uttarakhand which mark the merger of the flow of major rivers at one place).
After that Suresh Bhai Ji gave the statistical information about the various river and dam projects to Shree Shankaracharya Ji. Dr. Arvind Darmora presented Shree Shankaracharya Ji with the book titled "Urja Pradesh ki Ujadti Nadiyan, Ujadte Log" which he has written in context of the situation in Uttarakhand and showed him the map of Uttarakhand and underlined the problems posing threat to the existence of the rivers. After that Mr. Manoj Pandey, Secretary of Himalaya Sewa Sangh discussed about the human impact over the whole living world, including plants, animals, birds, insects and reptiles.
Later the marchers including Susheela Bhandari, Madhu Jhunjhunwala, Ranjeet Jakhi, Gajpal Singh Negi etc. presented Shree Shankaracharya Ji with a water jug (kalash) filled with the water of Ganga and other Himalayan rivers. During the presentation of the Kalash slogans like Ganga Bachao Desh Bacho were shouted out. Shree Shankaracharya Ji has warned the governments of all states and the central government that they should stop disturbing Ganga and other rivers anymore. The various matters regarding which Shankaracharya Ji has addressed the present intellects, media persons, and politicians has been video recorded. His address in the name of the people of the country will help in the saving of the rivers and ultimately the nation. In this view, his address is being presented below in his very own words: –
The thoughts of Shreemad Jagadguru Shankaracharya Pujya Swami Nischalanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj, Puri, Orrisa on the occasion of the conclusion of the Water-March on 19th of September, 2009
Ganga has become a subject of politics. The politicians have become shallow-minded in the race for the ‘chair’. There is not even a single political party which is untouched by this kind of thinking. This alliance of power greedy and shallow-minded politicians is being fed by directionless commercial system. At present, these politicians and businessmen are acting as the enemies of the nation, but one thing which needs to be understood here is that most of the religious, social and cultural organizations, leaving some exceptions are being fed by these politicians and businessmen only. So, in such a situation any religious, social or cultural organization is not capable of giving birth to a healthy revolution. In the last 62 years of independence the politicians of the alliance have used fraud and power to divide the Hindus into various parties. In this way everyone is becoming directionless. Especially, the Hindu sentiments are being hurt the most by the Hindu politicians and businessmen only. The Hindu politicians who built the vote bank, what is their condition in Jammu & Kashmir, Mizoram, Arunachal, and Nagaland? The countries sharing the borders with these states have used the Hindu politicians for their benefit and after they get their foothold in these areas, the Hindu politicians are treated as the fly in the milk and are thrown away. In this way, every region of our country is being controlled by some foreign power. In this condition, the directionless communist system, Muslim system, Christian system and their agents and the ruling system of the Hindus are altogether working as the enemies of the country. So it has become the responsibility of the patriots to work in the limits of humanity and to secure their existence through independence.
The politicians are developing India in such a way that it becomes devoid of mountains, forests and rivers. Can this be a dream for the development of the country? We wish to challenge persons from all over the world who believe in development and want to ask them that the way in which the forests are being destroyed, the polluted water of sewer lines is being dumped into the rivers, the natural course of the rivers is being obstructed through dams and tunnels, and the depletion in the level of water is being done through the use of various pumping machines. How can be this kind of development justified? The rulers of the state of Uttarakhand and the Central government do not worry about the society, but are more worried about collecting wealth for their next twenty five generations. A few politicians and their agents together with the traders of the foreign companies are working to make these people prosperous at the cost of the society and culture of the whole country.
But there is no need to lose hope. There are many political sages, with whom we will talk and will explain to them the subject matter of Uttarakhand. The country needs such a guide who does not admits to greed, fear, and impatient behaviour. Then there will be true justice. We people need to work through a very efficient system to achieve our goal. He called upon the people that the way in which Ram Setu was saved together with the coordinated and collective efforts of the people, in the same way the people would have to act now to save the river Ganga. The way in which the conspiracy is being done to make our holy river Ganga vanish through the construction of tunnels, in the same way we would also have to conspire against such actions. We all are sensitive and aware regarding this issue. We people are not sold out like our politicians. In Mahabharata, seven streams of the river Ganga have been described; from which Uttarakhand is the masthead of the river. If someone is beheaded then what is the use of the rest of the healthy body? The condition of the rivers is quite pitiful. The attraction towards the pilgrimages is due to the rivers there. After the river Yamuna got polluted the attraction of the Brindabans faded away. The attraction of Haridwar is also fading away with time, which is badly affecting our culture as well as the religious practices and the lives of the animals and birds has also been affected. Through the means of the media we wish to ask the RSS Head Mr. Mohan Bhagwat that is he being able to control the BJP in Uttarakhand or not? Had you asked BJP to destroy our river Ganga?
He said that he wants to ask Mr. Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia, Lal Krishan Advani and other senior leaders of BJP that did their government come into force in Uttarakhand just to wipe away the existence of the masthead of the holy river Ganga? If the rule of BJP has come into existence just for the cause of the destruction of these holy rivers then the agenda of BJP should be declared from a new end. If BJP’s agenda is not to act as the enemies of the nation then at least BJP should not do so in the name of Hindutva (Hinduism), otherwise China will enter even the inner areas of the Himalayan region. In a situation like this if the BJP is preparing to handover Uttarakhand to China then BJP needs to be alert from today itself. Or BJP would have to reap the crop of the seed it has sown. If BJP really wants to work for the welfare of the nation then it needs to cancel all the proposed and under-construction dam projects in Uttarakhand and to beg pardon from the society for its deeds. It is not right to make the source of the holy Ganga River to lose its direction. The government of Uttarakhand is making the rivers of the state directionless and is preparing to give away the state to China. If the Central government really wants to declare Ganga as the national river, in that case it should not resort to diplomatic measures during the elections as we can all see the situation of the national river before our eyes. The Ganga River is being exploited by the construction of canals and dams on it. We also call upon the Manmohan Singh government to answer this query of ours.
Demands raised by the People
1.The hydropower projects which require the flow of rivers to traverse through underground tunnels should be closed and –
a)The people affected by the projects which have already been constructed, should be compensated fully for their lands, houses and other damaged property. And a member from each family should be given permanent government job and the facility of free electricity.
b)The places where the drinking water sources have dried up, irrigation and water-supply facilities have been completely disrupted and the damage to religious and commercial places and pastures etc. The people of such places must be provided with related permanent arrangement immediately.
c)The places where the distance from the district or block headquarters has increased, displacement of the people has been done, animals and birds have been harmed, and diseases have taken a toll; the people of such places should be made partners in the production of electricity and should be compensated financially every year without any fail.
2.The nature has the potential to provide endless power and our nation has the kind of people with the requisite amount of scientific and technical expertise through which electricity may be produced without devastating the nature and man. So, the hydropower projects which ruin the nature and the people should not be constructed and in its place –
a)Efforts should be made to produce electricity using non-conventional sources of energy like water-mills, solar and wind energy, biomass and biogas etc.
b)Micro hydroelectric projects could thrive upon the existing irrigation canals to pave the way for the state towards the realization of the dream of Power State.
c)From the employment point of view small projects prove to be better than larger projects as they provide comparatively more and permanent employment for hard working unemployed local people through practices like transport of wood through rivers, rafting, fish rearing, irrigated farming, gardening, and animal husbandry. Hence policies should be drafted for the generation of employment through food and fodder, fuel, fiber and timber, intensive plantation of miscellaneous wide leaved trees, water harvesting and management and various processes for their usage.
d)Important schemes like NREGA should be carried out not only from the point of view of promoting employment but also for the conservation of water and forests.
3. (a) Due to the construction of various proposed hydropower projects the fertile land of the valleys of Uttarakhand which is full of greenery and fertility and also the land in the higher areas will be submerged, the human colonies will be dislocated and due to the ‘tunnelization’ of the rivers the pilgrimages, temples and prayags which are the attraction for the pilgrims and tourists from all over the world and India will get endangered. Also, these areas being in the frontier regions of the country will attract anti-social elements and will provide them with a place good enough for their activities. And from the point of view the sensitivity of the international borders the security of the country will fall prey to the intruders. So, this ‘development’ of the Power State will become the cause of the destruction of the nation. Therefore, all such developmental activities must be banned in this sensitive region which might cause the dislocation of the local people and cause this region to become man-less and of no use.
(b) The agenda of providing employment to the local people in the construction of the dams and other hydropower projects is the result of impatient, immature and uncalculated thoughts. The employment, facilities, culture, national unity and patriotism which could be provided and sustained by the mere undisturbed flow of the rivers could not be provided by the construction of starred hotels and large central factories. The Himalayan rivers which provide fertile soil in the plains and whose silt checks the erosion of the sea shores and limits the waves of the sea from flowing towards the human colonies in the coastal areas, in its comparison the dams stand nowhere as they just collect the silt in their reservoirs and so have limited life span and cause adverse effects on the environment.
The voice of the people who are living at the banks of the river and are fighting for saving their existence must be heard and understood by the state with due respect.
4. A Himalayan policy must be enacted which will take care of the management of the natural resources like water, forests and land, their enrichment and conservation, which will promote synchronous development of the plant and animal life, which will play the role of the guardian for the securing of the pride and dignity of the nation and balancing of the human life and promote self-dependence. Prior to the drafting of this policy dialogue must be established by the state with the people of the Himalayas, various institutions and social activists, and the persons fighting for their rights on the water, forests and land.
5. The Uttarakhand state must enact water, climate and rehabilitation policy for the people. It must take reference from the policies drafted by the people in the relating matters and should work for the drafting of policies as per the expectations of the native people.